The DPP advice to charge Ferguson is out of order

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Dear Editor,

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decision to charge the Opposition APNU+AFC Coalition Member of Parliament (MP), Annette Ferguson, in relation to the complaint made by a serving Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Colonel, Omar Khan, relative to a comment made by the MP over a social media post in relation to a killing squad, on an issue connected to a government policy matter, is out of order, and beyond the scope of the DPP’s office.

Firstly, an Opposition Member of Parliament made a comment about a matter which is in one way or another, connected to a policy decision by government. Secondly, this matter requires public funding for which the Opposition Member of Parliament has oversight by law. Thirdly, the core issue in relation to the proposed policy decision by government to establish a ‘Joint Regional Support Team, a new security unit, which is a matter of national security. The GDF Colonel Omar Khan, got caught in the crossfire between the government and the Opposition on a matter of national policy and national security.

In cases such as these, even if the DPP determines that the social media post was a violation of section 195(5)(a) of the Cybercrime Act No. 16 of 2018, specifically on using a computer system to humiliate a person; the DPP’s has to review the matter in the broader context  before recommending a charge against a sitting Member of Parliament (A Member of the Legislature) and a serving GDF officer, on a matter linked to policy, that was made by the Executive.

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The DPP owes it to Guyana and the people of Guyana, to conduct the business of the criminal justice system, not only in a fair and unbiased manner, but with the highest level of responsible behaviour. This matter should have never reached the DPP. If a Guyana Defence Force officer, has an issue with any Member of Parliament, that is linked to a policy issue, as in this case, Guyana ought to have various systems/options for redress for that officer.

The President is the Commander-in-Chief, as well as the Head of the Government/Executive, which makes policies; and he is also the President of the country, with responsibility for overseeing national security matters. Therefore, in my view, the DPP has entangled the criminal justice system in a political and national policy matter, which also has national security implications.

Colonel Omar Khan is not an ordinary citizen, he is a military officer, he therefore carries a burden of the responsibility, over and above that of the ordinary citizen, which is to protect every Guyanese citizen; irrespective of their race, ethnicity, religion, or whichever political party they may represent, that burden is also extended to the Guyana Defence Force as a national security institution.

As such, while Colonel Omar Khan has a right to file a complaint in this matter and to seek a course of redress, I submit that the course of redress sought in this matter, and the decision of the DPP to charge the Member of Parliament is not the proper mechanism for redress, in this instance.

Serving GDF officers must never be of the view that they have the scope to bring criminal charges against Members of Parliament, be they from the government or Opposition in matters linked to government policies, and more specifically, of a national security nature.  However, they must be confident that their rights as citizens will not be violated, even by Members of Parliament; and if that happens, there are options available for redress which would not negatively impact on the burden they carry as military officers, confidence in their unbiased involvement in the national security programme and does not conflict with the power structures in the society. This matter impacts negatively on the power structures of the society and the Guyana Defence Force is caught in the middle.

The used of the criminal justice system to solve political and some policy issues, particularly between the government and the Opposition, is becoming a matter of growing concern, and is bordering on an abuse of the criminal justice system. It also reflects a deficit in the capacity and capabilities of both government and the Opposition, on a wider range of mechanisms, approaches and tools which can be utilized to resolve political and policy issues. This must not be limited to the justice system.

I would humbly suggest that President Irfaan Ali seek assistance from the international community, to build the capacity and capabilities of both the government and Opposition/Members of Parliament, on factors and key considerations which should influence decision-making, governance and problem-solving; this will result in a reduction of the unwarranted burden on the justice system to mitigate and resolve political and policy matters and which invariably, increases conflicts in the society.

Finally, when it comes to matters such as these, the line must be clearly drawn between politics and national governance.

Yours faithfully,
Citizen Audreyanna Thomas



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